don’t use food as a reward


by Jen McGuire

It’s around 7:00 in our house. I’ve already walked the dog, and the kids are still in bed. Because I am trying to get healthy, I make us a huge smoothie. A banana, some flaxseed, spirulina, two big handfuls of spinach, blueberries, carrot juice. What a good mom I am, right?  I stand by the blender thinking, Holy crap, Jen. You are one righteous mom. Feeding your kids this – well, it’s almost like medicine, isn’t it?

I get to feel like this for about two minutes. Then the boys are awake. Every morning I am surprised again at the sheer size of them. I have 4 sons and 3 of them are over 6 feet tall. The smallest, my poor little runt, is only a shameful 5 foot 10. His brothers have asked me if I smoked during my pregnancy for him on account of his pygmy-like stature (he is 12 years old). I did not.

So here they all come, grumbling, hair sticking up in spikes. I hold out a glass of wonderful smoothie with a (possibly too bright) smile. They ignore me. Head for the pantry and pass along some strawberry Pop Tarts assembly line style, which is a bit of a consolation, I guess.  I mean, they are sharing with each other.  Then they wordlessly eat cold Pop Tarts over a paper towel.  And I am stuck drinking all 5 glasses of smoothie.

I bet you have a few questions now. First and foremost, if you’re trying to get healthy, why even have the Pop Tarts available?  I’ve thought about this myself. I think it’s mob mentality. There are just so many of them.  And there is only one of me. Plus, they are smart enough to never leave me alone at the grocery store. They take it in shifts to come with me when I buy food. Which is in itself suspicious. They hate shopping.

Why don’t I just make them drink the smoothies, you ask? If you are asking this question, your kids are still small and malleable. If you are asking this question, there is still hope for your children. I wish I’d been a smoothie-pusher when they were little. Back when they ate whatever I put in front of them. Unfortunately, I had my kids fairly young. Young enough to see my kids as less hairy puppies who needed to be rewarded with treats;

Did you go pee on the potty? Good boy, here’s a box of Smarties for you with a chicken McNugget chaser.

Did you get an award at school?  My goodness, Delissio pizzas all around!

So I’ve set the bar. They associate junk food with reward. Ergo, healthy food must be a punishment. Nothing hurts my youngest son’s feelings as much as being told to eat an apple. ‘But why?  What did I do??’

My advice? Get your kids young. Don’t use food to reward kids. My only hope now is that they marry some woman down the road who forces them to eat healthy food. I can just hear her now, ‘I can’t believe your mother fed you that crap!  What was she thinking…’


jen and nathan beachJen McGuire is a veteran mom of 4 sons and a writer.  She’s been deep in the trenches since 1994 and going it alone since 2002.  Not that she’s counting.  In her past she’s been a bartender, a secretary, a matchmaker and a baker.  In the present she’s working hard on a very hilarious guide book, tentatively titled ‘The Unaffordable Tampon; A Broke Mom’s Guide To Post-Divorce’.  In her future I see lavish trips to Europe, a beautiful home quite similar to Diane Keaton’s beach house in ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ and a nicely defined waistline.

She also has a dog who snores too loud when she’s trying to write.